The fascinating soap opera of North Korean politics has taken another turn as experts have begun to speculate that Kim Jong-un’s powerful sister Yo-jong may be under threat from the secretive state ’s leader,
Kim Yo-jong has not been seen in public since July 27. She had been widely tipped to take the reins after her brother took a number of long absences from day-to-day duties – widely interpreted as signs of his ill-health.
But after international reports of Yo-jong being her brother’s “second in command” and the “heir apparent” to leadership some Korea-watchers are saying that she may now have become too powerful – and that Kim may have taken action against her.
Professor Nam Sung-wook, of Korea University in Seoul, told The Chosun Ilbo : “In the past, anyone was deprived of their position the moment they were described as the number two person in the North.
“There must be a semblance of checks and balances, although Kim Yo-jong is a family member.”
Being a family member is no guarantee of safety. Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, was killed by assassins using VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia in 2017.
While it’s not confirmed that that the North Korean secret service was behind the hit, four of the assassins fled to Pyongyang which implies that the killing was officially sanctioned.
Kim Jong-un’s uncle Jang Song-thaek was executed by firing squad in 2013 for crimes against the state.
Prof Nam says that Kim Yo-jong might have voluntarily retreated from the limelight because she became aware that her position might threaten her brother.
But Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, sys Kim’s sister is being groomed for ultimate power in Pyongyang.
“The way for her to build up her credibility and net worth, that is, the way for her to get respect, is not to play nice but be a cruel dictator to her people and a credible nuclear threat to the US,” he told the New York Post.
“She may prove herself fiercer and more tyrannical than her brother, father, or grandfather.”